googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Truth Trumps Theory

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Truth Trumps Theory

Theories are funny things. Whenever we observe something, we might theorize how such a thing can be. We can be very elaborate in our theories. As we discover new things about what we’re studying, we can tweak our theories to explain the new information. When we’re done, our theory seems to explain the observation so well that we become convinced that our theory must be true. But we should always keep in mind that the even the most well thought out and seemingly sound theories could be wrong.

First, we should never fall into the trap of circular reasoning. If you invent a theory to explain the data, then you cannot use the data as evidence for your theory. For example, if I find a black rock with purple dots painted on it, I might theorize that Martians painted the dots on the rocks. If you ask me how I know this, I might reply, “Here’s the rock. See for yourself!” So you see, my theory might explain the rock but the rock can’t prove my theory. Likewise, people have invented an elaborate theory (ToE) to explain changes in animals. They can’t then point to the changes in animals to prove their theory.

Let me give you an even more detailed scenario. Suppose for a moment that I came home from work one evening and found broken glass all over the floor. The first thing that I would do is wonder where it came from. There are some things that I already know: 1) there’s glass on the floor and 2) there are three people in my home during the day – my wife, my 14 year old daughter, and my 5 year old son. Immediately I might conclude that one of these three people caused the glass to be on the floor.

Next, I would look for additional data. I might try to assemble some of the pieces to see what was broken. After looking at a few of the pieces I can see it was a drinking glass. Aha! Somebody dropped a glass. The next thing I notice is there is no liquid on the floor so the glass must have been empty when it was dropped. I look carefully at the pieces and I notice they’ve already accumulated a little bit of dust. I look in the cabinet and the glasses there don’t have as much dust on them so the pieces must have been on the floor for at least a while. They weren’t there when I left for work so it must have happened soon after I left. My wife is a compulsive cleaner so there is no way she would have left broken pieces of glass on the floor all day. My son is too short to even reach the cabinet so I don’t believe he broke the glass. That only leaves my daughter as the suspect. So here then is my theory:

I left for work when everyone was in bed. My wife could not have been home when the glass was broken so she must have gotten up and taken our son somewhere early. Then my daughter wakes up, goes to the kitchen to get something to drink, and drops the glass before filling it. Being a typical teenager, she doesn’t bother to clean it up and leaves it on the floor all day.

As I’m standing there reflecting on my sleuthing skills, my wife walks in. I’m a little surprised to see her. “Where have you been?” I ask. “I’ve been here all day,” she replies. I’m even more surprised. “Then why have you left this mess here?” She answers, “I didn’t leave it here. I was just cleaning it up when you came home.” I stand there puzzled as she explains what really happened:

The truth is, “I was cleaning in the house when I noticed some men standing in our driveway. One of them was drinking from a glass and he dropped it. I was nervous to go confront them alone so I just waited until they left and then I went out with a dustpan and swept up all the pieces. As I was carrying them through the kitchen to put them in the trash, I dropped the dustpan. I was getting the vacuum cleaner out to clean it up when you came in.”

We see then my theory was wrong on several points: The glass wasn’t empty when it was dropped; it wasn’t dropped in the kitchen; it wasn’t even our glass; it wasn’t broken by anyone in my family; it wasn’t dropped in the morning; the dust on the pieces was actually from the dustpan; and my wife had not gone out anywhere.

My theory may have explained all the facts, but very little about my theory turned out to be true. What is true is what was told to me by an eyewitness to the events. And when I learned the truth, I could then understand why things were as they were.
When we looked at the creation of the world, we can speculate and make theories about how it happened. But the Creator of the world has told us what He did and He was indeed the only eyewitness to the events. The truth of His words trumps our theories.

No comments: